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F1 2016 Driver Review: Romain Grosjean

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Romain Grosjean

Team: Haas F1 Team
Car No.: 8
Races: 21
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 5th (Bahrain)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 29
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 13th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Romain Grosjean arguably took the boldest team switch of the 2015/2016 off-season when he opted to move to the new Haas operation, but it paid off almost immediately. P6 in Australia and P5 in Bahrain were remarkable results given the team’s infancy, down to a mix of bold strategy and masterful racing from Grosjean.

But they proved to be the high points of the Frenchman’s season. As the reality of life in Formula 1 hit the Haas team, Grosjean was only able to add a single point to his haul through the second half of the campaign. His ‘teenager raging on Xbox’ radio calls returned, similar to those heard amid his Lotus struggles, with a constant lack of feel with the car miring his campaign.

Nevertheless, Grosjean kept fighting the good fight. The Frenchman easily outclassed teammate Esteban Gutierrez, and will continue to lead Haas through 2017 when Kevin Magnussen arrives from Renault.

Much like Grosjean’s Lotus days, this was a year all about punching well above his weight and taking results he shouldn’t have. Old habits die hard.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

It speaks volumes of Grosjean’s maturation and development that the guy once branded a “first-lap nutcase” would become the targeted team leader to help spur a first-year team forward. Grosjean handled the task with aplomb and grace, and even despite the frustrations that inevitably occurred later in the year, was a worthy guiding light in the driver lineup at Haas F1 Team. 

The dream start was, admittedly, a false dawn for the rest of the year. With 22 points from three scores in the first four races, Haas exceeded expectations and almost created unrealistic ones for the rest of the year. Staff changes didn’t help matters either with Grosjean and Haas losing their strategic ace Ruth Buscombe to Sauber.

Because Grosjean’s career has been largely down to his fighting adversity, he was well positioned to handle the challenges that lay ahead. The braking issues were the most persistent, and pace fluctuated from week-to-week depending on the type of circuit. While the fifth and sixth place results were Grosjean’s best finishes, it was his single point at Austin and 11th places in Suzuka and Abu Dhabi where you felt Grosjean was properly outperforming the machinery at his disposal.

With focus shifted early to a 2017 car, what Grosjean and the team did this year will go down in history as an incredible run for a first-year program.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.